I was a teen in the 1980's. It was a simpler time. I rode my bike all over town. When my parents wanted to call my sister and I for dinner, we had a big cowbell in the backyard that they'd ring. We played tennis and hung out at the pool at the club.We went to all the high school activities and while we had parties, we were always afraid of them getting busted by cops. While we spent time on the phone with our friends, it was limited because it was a landline. We were always home at 11:00 because “nothing good ever happens after midnight.” Today's teen doesn't have it that easy.
My daughter wouldn't think of riding her bike across town. Why? It's dangerous. Not only are there pedophiles everywhere (just check the registry), there's sex trafficking going on all around Kansas City (apparently it's a major hub). It wouldn't take much to overpower a size zero, sixteen year-old and that's scary. It's a concern that didn't exist in the 80's and while I'm sure it still happened, you just didn't hear about it.
Also, non-existent in the 80's. Sexting. My teen said it best a couple of weeks ago, “the problem with my generation is that we see more dick pics than faces.” That's awful. I've written about sexting before and was told at the time that it wasn't happening all over the place. Not true. I was in the car with my Rosie and a friend when the same boy sent a picture of his penis to the two of them. Makes you wonder how many other girls got the same SnapChat. Not only is it illegal, it's disrespectful. And, I'm sure that there are girls out there sending unsolicited nudes too it's not just a guy problem.
Social media has complicated the life of today's teen.
Not only do they have no time to escape the craziness of high school, they are constantly bombarded all day long. There is no way to escape bullying when you have a smart phone. It doesn't stop and it's terrible. In the 80's I never knew a teenager that even attempted suicide and while that may be because depression wasn't openly discussed like it is now but I don't think so. I think it's because technology has escalated bullying and it's changed our kid's social experience. I think today's teens feel the need to be perfect because they see images all day long that are (or they think they are). It's a lot of pressure and sadly we see kids that can't seem to cope with it every single day.
It wasn't until I was in college in the late 80's that I heard of a girl getting sexually assaulted walking home from a party late at night. Now, there's a documentary about it happening to high school girls because it's no longer rare (and I think every single parent of a high school student should watch it with their kids). No means no, whether a girl is inebriated or not. I think it's sad that we have to have difficult conversations with our teens early because it takes away a piece of their childhood however, their view of sex is much different from ours. They need to understand that oral sex is still sex and be strong enough to resist the pressure to become sexually active if they're not ready. They need to be allowed to be kids.
The world of today's teen is a dangerous place.
Not only is it more violent than the world of the 80's, it's also more intolerant. The rise of terrorist attacks sends a consistent message to these kids that anyone different from them is bad. While I've raised a pretty color blind daughter, she's an anomaly. These kids are quick to judge on race, socioeconomic status and sexual preference and sadly, it's a top down problem. You learn intolerance from your family and then bully your peers into following you. It needs to stop.
Being a teen isn't easy these days and honestly, it's the responsibility of us as parents to sit down and educate our kids about all of these issues. We can't assume that our teenagers know something is wrong until we tell them it is. We need to educate them and clearly explain the consequences of their actions if they do something illegal, like sending nudes, and get caught. We also can't have the “not my kid” attitude. No one's children are perfect and to top it off, they don't have the reasoning ability of an adult so it makes for foggy decision-making.
I remember making stupid decisions when I was a teen in the 80's but honestly, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot that I could do that was that dangerous. There wasn't any technology to expose me to things outside the little bubble of my world in Peoria, IL. Today's teens are exposed to so much more and as parents, it's our job to educate, inform and protect them.